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Henry IV, Part 2

A scene from Henry IV, Part 2

Introduction to the play

Henry IV, Part 2 is the only Shakespeare play that is a “sequel,” in the modern sense, to an earlier play of his. Like most sequels, it repeats many elements from the previous work, Henry IV, Part 1. This play again puts on stage Henry IV’s son, Prince Hal, who continues to conceal his potential greatness by consorting with tavern dwellers, including the witty Sir John Falstaff.

As in Part 1, Prince Hal and Falstaff seek to best each other in conversation, while Falstaff tries to ingratiate himself with Hal and Hal disdains him. Part 2 adds some fresh characters, the rural justices Shallow and Silence and Shallow’s household. Political rebellion, while important to the plot, does not loom as large as in Part 1. There are no glorious champions; combat is replaced by deception, cunning, and treachery.

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Cover of the Folger Shakespeare edition of Henry IV, Part 2

The Folger Shakespeare

Our bestselling editions of Shakespeare's plays and poems

… He hath eaten me out of house and home.

Act 2, scene 1, line 76

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

Act 3, scene 1, line 31

Henry IV, Part 2 in our collection

A selection of Folger collection items related to Henry IV, Part 2. Find more in our digital image collection

Robert Smirke. Falstaff rebuked. Oil on canvas, ca. 1795
Act 4, scene 5: The prince is about to take the crown from the king. By Alexandre Bida.
Bardolph refused admittance

Essays and resources from The Folger Shakespeare

Henry IV, Part 2

Learn more about the play, its language, and its history from the experts behind our edition.

About Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 2
An introduction to the plot, themes, and characters in the play

Reading Shakespeare’s Language
A guide for understanding Shakespeare’s words, sentences, and wordplay

An Introduction to This Text
A description of the publishing history of the play and our editors’ approach to this edition

Shakespeare and his world

Learn more about Shakespeare, his theater, and his plays from the experts behind our editions.

Shakespeare’s Life
An essay about Shakespeare and the time in which he lived

Shakespeare’s Theater
An essay about what theaters were like during Shakespeare’s career

The Publication of Shakespeare’s Plays
An essay about how Shakespeare’s plays were published

Related blog posts and podcasts

Teaching Henry IV, Part 2

Early printed texts

Henry IV, Part 2 was first published in 1600 in a quarto that has survived in two different versions. The first (Qa) is missing the scene that we know as 3.1; the second (Qb) includes it. The play was not printed again until its inclusion in the 1623 First Folio (F1). The F1 text has significant differences from the earlier quartos, including substantial additional passages concerning figures in the rebels’ party, the deletion of oaths, and some differences in punctuation, syntax, and stage directions. Modern editors have not come to a consensus about the reason for these differences or about how to handle them today, although most editions provide some sort of combination of Q and F1. The Folger edition is based on the Q text (preferring Qa where possible) and including F1 where Q seems defective. Language that appears only in Q is indicated with square brackets; language that appears only in F1 is marked off with pointed brackets.

First Quarto (Qb; 1600)